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Subject: Another Portland pirate win game rss

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Warren Bruhn
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Today I played in my second M&M game at Guardian Games, in Portland, Oregon. It was probably the fourth or fifth game for two of the players, however, David A & Dave E. We had a new player named Gary. With four players, set up, take down, and time used to explain the rules to the new guy, the whole game from pulling out the box to putting it away took three and a half hours. So playing time predictions are still spot on for us.

This time 3 out of 4 started with a pirate strategy, Dave E with a sloop in Havana, David A with a sloop in Basse Terre, Gary with a flute in Petite Goave, and myself with a sloop in St. Maartens. Dave E played first, and started looking for merchant ships to raid. David A played next and had an opportunity to go for the +3 from a merchant raid at San Juan, but perhaps he did not want to be sitting off San Juan with a damaged ship with gold on board and depleted special weapons when I emerged from St. Maartens with a fresh ship and a full stock of special weapons. So he headed toward the southeast to look for merchants, mostly unsuccessfully as he failed to find them 4 or 5 times during the game with his spotting value of 3! (He had had a bad day of dice rolling for spotting and naval battles the previous day playing The Napoleonic Wars.) Dave A likes to go for Spaniards, but it took him a long time to find them in this game.

I played next and gladly took a Spanish merchant off San Juan for my first glory point. The new guy bought a ship mod and some cargo and took his flute across the Carribean heading for Curacao. As he didn't have any gold on board, and had good combat stats, he didn't fear an attack by our weak sloops in the opening moves. He managed to use his captain's special ability to make extra gold off the sale of sugar cane. Ultimately, his flute carried 4 ship mods, including reinforced hull, advanced rigging, extra cannon, with chain shot, and grape shot. With all that hardware and the stats of his captain, we had to think twice about ever going after him.

David A had the first stroke of misfortune, as a French government frigate showed up off Basse Terre, and it looked as if he was going to have a hard time getting home to stash gold. Not that he was making much, given his difficulty spotting any merchants. But then, after I had moved back to St. Maartens to repair my ship, that French frigate moved north, trapping me in harbor! My captain had good leadership, however, so I made repairs, bought all special weapons, stashed gold, left a will for my heir, as I was expecting to die, and sailed forth to meet the frigate!

Within the previous 24 hours I had read the combat example on the back of the rulebook, and that's pretty much how the battle went! I took some damage in the first round, but dished some out as well. On the second round I tried to board, but lost the seamanship dice roll to the French frigate captain, who was also rolling three dice. My cannon and masts were shot away and I was a sitting duck! But then I was reminded to use my grappling hooks, and succeeded in boarding! I had only one crew left at the end of the melee, but I had taken a mostly intact frigate and a glory point! Whew! I was able to pay for repairs out of the proceeds of the sale of the frigates cargo at St. Johns, bought extra hammocks there, rolled a successful recruitment of 3 more crew, bringing me up to 4 crew, and was back in business!

Gary's cargo trading was taking him eastwards, closer to David A's sloop and my frigate, so Gary had to become more cautious and spend more time hopping carefully from port to port. He eventually made a sale of three or four goods in demand for his first glory point, and then he started hopping from port to port going back west via the coast of South America. There was a mission involving the profitable sale of lumber at Old Providence. He eventually made a lot of money by selling 4 lumber there, and scored a glory point for turning in the mission card, even though lumber was not the good in demand at the port. That did cost him some tempo, however, because he had to do a port action one turn to pick up the mission card, and then wait until the next turn to do another port action to sell the lumber he already had on board. He spent a turn at sea, being protected from the pirates in the east by three government frigates that were patrolling in the west. He eventually made it home to Petite Goave on the last turn and stashed 50 gold, but had only 2 other glory points. Hiding in ports from three other guys playing pirates just made his task too slow.

It was Dave E who got the early lead in glory. A Spanish frigate showed up off Havanna, so it looked as if he couldn't go home either. So he worked his way south and then east, scoring 5 glory on his way to Basse Terre. At Basse Terre he changed tactics, adding an extra cargo hold to his sloop, and then buying trade goods, evidently with the intention of selling three goods in demand at St. Maartens for his 5th glory point, while using the good offices of the St. Maartens gold courier to stash enough gold for him in Havanna for the win. It didn't look like we could stop him, because he was hiding in port and was not letting David A or me have a crack at him. I did manage to dispose of his specialist with a "Jonah" card. But then Dave A hit him with a mutiny card. So that when he sold his three goods in demand in St. Maartens for his 5th glory point, and paid the gold courier, he was unable to stash enough gold to claim the win!

At this point Dave E went back out to sea off St. Maartens, preparing to hit a merchant ship for his last couple of glory points. David A showed up in his sloop and used a "show the way" type card to sic the Spanish frigate onto Dave E! The Spanish frigate dished out some damage to Dave E's sloop, but Dave E was able to prevail, and got what was his 9th glory point by being the second sloop to take a government frigate off St. Maartens!

My frigate was selling cargo and being repaired again in St. Maartens at the time, stashing more gold, and buying back expended special weapons. David A tried to sic me on Dave E's damaged frigate, but it was still a formidable fighting machine. Dave E in turn tried to sic me on David A's sloop, a less intimidating target, but one with advanced rigging, and therefor an extra seamanship die on me. Obviously my tactic against either of them would be to survive a round of cannon fire and try to board them with my crew of 4 and leadership of 3. However, there was a third option. The merchant off St. Maartens had never been found, as I had always failed my scouting rolls on that merchant. So I took the easy path, sailed out, finally got a successful scouting role against the merchant, and easilly took 12 gold for my 10th glory point. The only player left to go was Gary, who sailed into Petite Goave with his flute, sold goods, and stashed gold for a total of 7 glory. Since that was the end of the turn, I was able to score the win.

Once again, our group has seen another pirate win. The tempo for pirates seems to be a little faster, especially if the merchant player isn't getting much luck putting together three goods in demand, and the merchant player has to waste tempo hiding from all the pirates. We didn't bother upgrading, though two pirate sloops captured frigates in dramatic battles. It's a gamble to do that, but it sure beats paying 35 gold for a frigate! It was a very dramatic game that came down to the wire. We had thought about playing with a passive intercept rule similar to those previously proposed on this forum, but I didn't want to play with that for this game. At the end, we concluded that the game didn't really require a passive intercept rule because merchants hiding in ports were losing tempo. This cost Gary too much time, even though he was figuring out the game pretty quickly.

Truly fine game! I especially look forward to teaching the kids how to play it. This time we used 4 little plastic treasure chests for our stashed gold, which I had snagged from various Playmobil pirate ships.
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Mike Clarke
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
Once again, our group has seen another pirate win. The tempo for pirates seems to be a little faster, especially if the merchant player isn't getting much luck putting together three goods in demand, and the merchant player has to waste tempo hiding from all the pirates.


Looks like another knock to the "merchants always win, pirates suck" line of thinking. I have always found chances about equal playing either one.

Warren Bruhn wrote:
We didn't bother upgrading, though two pirate sloops captured frigates in dramatic battles. It's a gamble to do that, but it sure beats paying 35 gold for a frigate! It was a very dramatic game that came down to the wire.


That's always a risk but my most memorable game involved exactly that strategy -- coming from behind by waiving the upgrade and successfully running a gauntlet of Naval and player Frigates in my little sloop and porting for the win.

It was risky but by that time in the game it was my ONLY option. That's what I love about Merchants and Marauders -- the multiple paths to victory and the fact no two plays are alike. What more do you want out of a game?!

Great session report Warren! Congratulations on your win.
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Warren Bruhn
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I think one of the features of our group is that David A and Dave E both mastered the techniques of merchant raiding quickly, for David A even before we played our first game. That meant that pirates were usually equipped with special weapons, and made liberal use of them to insure that most raids netted 12+ gold and the glory point. Also, we are being conscious of the need to avoid having bounties from all the nations, so that we can have ports where we can sell the stolen goods and repair our pirate ships.

David A likes to pick on the Spanish and avoid bounties from the others. I tried the same in this game, but got unlucky with the French frigate sitting outside my port of St. Maarten, and aquired a French bounty when I took the frigate. Fortunately, the event card came up that allowed me to buy off the French bounty and get a pardon for 5 gold at a time when I was again in St. Maarten with my stash handy. That caused some discussion as to whether or not I needed to use a port action to access my stash to buy the pardon. We couldn't find anything in the rules that required me to use a port action to do that.

We don't seem to have such good luck on the cargo cards when buying goods. It seems to be quite time consuming to put together a cargo load of three in demand goods, often requiring 2 or 3 port actions. I found it frustrating that the in demand good in the port I was sailing for would change as some pirate vermin would dash into the port ahead of me to sell one in demand good that was stolen in a nearby merchant raid. Merchant raids seem to be a more reliable way of scoring glory points than three goods in demand. In fact, when Dave E stopped to try to get three goods in demand in Basse Terre to sell in St. Maartens, he lost valuable tempo which might have been better used on more merhant raiding. That may have cost him this game.

The cargo deck gets cycled very quickly, since we are using it so much for merchant raiding. I'm not sure whether the cargo deck is actually big enough, given how much it is used.

Also, when playing with a flute, even one that's tricked out with modifications, it's pretty scary to contemplate combat. The extra seamanship die given to the sloop over the flute is a concern. Our psychology changes when we are sailing a flute. We get cautious and spend actions hiding in port, while the devil may care pirates in their little sloops stay at sea and defy the world to attack them.

In the future, we intend to try playing games to 12 or 13 glory points, with only 5 from stashed gold. We generally have 4 to 5 hours available on Sunday afternoons at Guardian Games, and we want to see more missions and rumors and ship upgrades than we have seen so far.
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Mike Clarke
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
We don't seem to have such good luck on the cargo cards when buying goods. It seems to be quite time consuming to put together a cargo load of three in demand goods, often requiring 2 or 3 port actions.


Given some of the chatter here, you'd think it was raining triplets in most games! That said...have you tried keeping your doubles instead of selling them and turning them into triplets? it's a lot easier to get the third card when you're already running around with two.
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Warren Bruhn
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We often try to hold doubles, which is why it often takes us 2 or 3 port actions to get a triple.
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David Abel
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mikecl wrote:
Given some of the chatter here, you'd think it was raining triplets in most games! That said...have you tried keeping your doubles instead of selling them and turning them into triplets? it's a lot easier to get the third card when you're already running around with two.

That's the trick. Our newbie merchant wasn't doing that. He was constantly selling off his pairs and thus trailed the pack the entire game. But I don't think he was receiving the best advice from the pirate on his right (Warren) and whenever I tried to chime in, his eyes simply glazed over with an information overload look, so I stopped.

But to his credit, Warren was a much more successful pirate this game than he was a merchant on his last.
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Mike Clarke
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drabel wrote:
mikecl wrote:
Given some of the chatter here, you'd think it was raining triplets in most games! That said...have you tried keeping your doubles instead of selling them and turning them into triplets? it's a lot easier to get the third card when you're already running around with two.

That's the trick. Our newbie merchant wasn't doing that. He was constantly selling off his pairs and thus trailed the pack the entire game. But I don't think he was receiving the best advice from the pirate on his right (Warren) and whenever I tried to chime in, his eyes simply glazed over with an information overload look, so I stopped.

But to his credit, Warren was a much more successful pirate this game than he was a merchant on his last.


LOL...ah I see! arrrh
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Warren Bruhn
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drabel wrote:
But I don't think he was receiving the best advice from the pirate on his right (Warren) and whenever I tried to chime in, his eyes simply glazed over with an information overload look, so I stopped.


Hey! I thought I was just giving Gary a choice! Anyway, he had a problem in that the other three of us were all playing pirates, and there was an NPC pirate on the board, and he was within range of our pirate sloops for about half the game. He would have been a tough target if we had tried an attack, due to his ship mods and seamanship rating of 3. However, we discussed the option of him staying at sea.

If he had stayed in port for another turn, and drawn three more cards, what are the odds he could have scored a triple? And if he had gone to another port to try for a triple, that would have taken two extra turns if he stuck with his choice of hiding in port from the excessive number of pirate players. But yes, he should have tried for triples, as it's the critical way for merchants to get glory. I certainly did not emphasize that enough.blush

But it's true I'm no good at playing a merchant. Hopefully more people will play a merchant in our next games, but that may depend on the draw of captains. I would love it if you showed the rest of us how to win as a merchant, David A, since we haven't seen a merchant win yet.
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Mike Clarke
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
If he had stayed in port for another turn, and drawn three more cards, what are the odds he could have scored a triple? And if he had gone to another port to try for a triple, that would have taken two extra turns


This is such a game of opportunity, my advice would be to hang on to the doubles, but only for one port. In other words, hit the next port on your way to the "in demand" port and if you don't pull the third card on the six card draw then sell the doubles and hook yourself up with another double on the cargo card draw. You need to keep making money and keep changing your game up to maximize your chances.

But if you always have a set of two on board, you're going to hit those triplets a lot more often than trying to pull them cold from the deck.
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David Abel
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Nope, I haven't won as a merchant. Poor Peppi was boarded by some dastardly pirate. But I get the theory. Mike's right, grab your pair and set sail hoping to fill it out on the way. I don't think Gary had much to fear from us early on with his decked out flute, not until you and Dave each had frigates. But by then he had all those naval ships to duck in and out of. He played timidly, a newbie flaw he'll get over.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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mikecl wrote:
This is such a game of opportunity, my advice would be to hang on to the doubles, but only for one port. In other words, hit the next port on your way to the "in demand" port and if you don't pull the third card on the six card draw then sell the doubles and hook yourself up with another double on the cargo card draw.

Since we're in the Sessions folder, not Strategy, I'm going to put my thoughts in a spoiler:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I agree that getting triples is important, but I don't think in terms of trying x times for a match. Each turn I'll weigh the new board situation before deciding whether to hold 'em or fold 'em.

Is there a port with demand for that type of goods near by? If I hold the pair and head for another port trying to get a match, how close will that put me to the port with the demand? Are there any Missions I might be able to grab in either location? Are other merchants close enough to land and flip the demand counter before I get my chance? Where are the pirates, and where are the NPC ships?

The great thing about this game is that there are so many factors to consider that weighing them accurately is complex and interesting. Your ability to do so directly correlates to your odds of winning, but there's enough of a luck factor muddying the results that there are no easy answers. Great stuff!



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Mike Clarke
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Sphere wrote:
mikecl wrote:
This is such a game of opportunity, my advice would be to hang on to the doubles, but only for one port. In other words, hit the next port on your way to the "in demand" port and if you don't pull the third card on the six card draw then sell the doubles and hook yourself up with another double on the cargo card draw.

Since we're in the Sessions folder, not Strategy, I'm going to put my thoughts in a spoiler:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
I agree that getting triples is important, but I don't think in terms of trying x times for a match. Each turn I'll weigh the new board situation before deciding whether to hold 'em or fold 'em.

Is there a port with demand for that type of goods near by? If I hold the pair and head for another port trying to get a match, how close will that put me to the port with the demand? Are there any Missions I might be able to grab in either location? Are other merchants close enough to land and flip the demand counter before I get my chance? Where are the pirates, and where are the NPC ships?

The great thing about this game is that there are so many factors to consider that weighing them accurately is complex and interesting. Your ability to do so directly correlates to your odds of winning, but there's enough of a luck factor muddying the results that there are no easy answers. Great stuff!


Sphere has nailed it far more precisely than my crude attempt. His analysis is bang on. That's exactly what I mean when I say it's a game of opportunity. There is no one strategy that works, but weighing everything Sphere said, if you have the opportunity after applying his analysis, it's still good to have two on board where possible when going for triplets!
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